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What is Cold Water Shock?

What is Cold Water Shock?

What is Cold Water Shock?

The leading cause of death in the marine environment is cold water shock, which is often mistaken for hypothermia. When someone is immersed in cold water between 10 and 15 degrees, an involuntary response is triggered that requires immediate action to mitigate severe damage. Quick CPR provides customized CPR classes covering all the bases regarding cold water shock, alleviating guesswork when providing emergency care. Cold water immersion has four stages, which are vital in assessing the severity of the situation and recommending the appropriate care.

The first stage lasts about three minutes and occurs immediately after getting immersed in cold water. Several automatic reactions are induced after rapid skin cooling, such as hyperventilation, gasping, panic, and blood flow restriction. The average breathing rate increases ten times, resulting in an automatic gasp reflex. A CPR certification is vital when dealing with a cold water shock victim, allowing you to assess the situation before proceeding with care. Here’s what to expect in the first two stages.

Initial "Cold Shock"

As mentioned, the initial stage of cold water shock occurs within the first 3-5 minutes after getting immersed in cold water. However, there are circumstances where cold water immersion causes hyperventilation, involuntary gasping, and vertigo. If the victim doesn’t receive emergency care in time, these symptoms can escalate, resulting in drowning due to excessive water inhalation. Other involuntary responses induced by cold water immersion include changes in heart rate, blood pressure, and heart rhythm, which can result in death. A CPR certification allows you to detect deterioration after cold water immersion and provide the needed care before receiving professional help.

Short-Term "Swim Failure"

Swim failure occurs within the first half-hour after cold water immersion. The muscles in the legs and arms tend to cool quickly, resulting in low hand grip strength, manual dexterity, and reduced speed of movement, which drops by 60% 0r 80% depending on the severity of the situation. Even strong individuals faced with such conditions can experience difficulty pulling themselves out of water or even keeping their heads above water—delayed help results in drowning and death.

What Are the Symptoms of Cold Water Shock?

When a person is immersed in cold water, blood vessels in the skin close, creating resistance to blood flow. This overwhelms the heart because it needs to work harder, resulting in high blood pressure and heart rate. Therefore, severe cold water shock can cause heart attacks, even in young and healthy individuals.

If you see someone gasping for breath after being immersed in cold water, you need to provide the necessary care before they inhale water directly into the lungs. This can happen within seconds, hence the need to enroll in CPR classes to equip yourself with the knowledge and skills needed to address the situation and provide life-saving care. For more information about cold water shock, contact us at Quick CPR and schedule a consultation with our team of experts. We leverage extensive industry knowledge and expertise, guaranteeing quality services at competitive market rates.